The TraditionWhile no one knows for sure where this tradition originated, some suggest that it was passed on from British regiments garrisoned in the US during the colonial era. As the story goes, some of their traditions and customs were passed on to newly formed American units. New officers were assigned an enlisted adviser who showed them the ropes, taught them the regimental history as well as the ins and outs of the military profession. Lieutenants compensated their enlisted advisor with a small sum of money.
American second Lieutenants in the early 1800's, received $25 monthly base pay, a ration allowance of $3, and an allowance of $1 for their enlisted adviser. While the adviser's pay was eventually discontinued, the responsibility for mentoring the newly commissioned officer continued. This relationship is thought to be the basis for this tradition.
By tradition, the silver dollar is the only coin given in exchange for the first salute. While the coin may be just one dollar in denomination, it represents a value far greater. To new officers it may represent the respect found in ones newly earned rank and position. A twist on the thinking for the silver dollar salute is that the new officer must buy his first salute as he has not yet by the nature of his deed alone, earned it!
This coin should represent the deep-felt gratitude for the mentor ship and lessons imparted by the Non Commissioned Officer on his Lieutenant before he sends him out into the world to embark in the brotherhood and profession of arms. The silver in a true silver dollar really represents the fidelity to a standard and this coin will be a store of value both in the memory it makes, its intrinsic value as a precious metal, and its part in American history.